Let us start with a small exercise: imagine that you are sitting between two people. The one on your left offers you a ‘gift’. You have to receive it from her in a way that affirms her. You then have to transform the gift into some thing that reflects your self without taking away the ‘energy’ that your friend invested in the ‘gift’. This is now your offering to the person on your right.
This simple process reflects the essence of the idea of ‘Maitri’. There are a few possibilities:
‘Gifts’ are being offered to us at every moment of our wakeful lives (and our dreams if we take Jung and Freud seriously). We don't often see transactions this way, but energy is being exchanged. In yoga the concept is that with every touch, praanaa is exchanged. When we are not attentive to this process, the three beneficial ways of handling gifts (that we imagined in our mental play) would become very difficult. We would either be internalizing negative ‘gifts’ and adding to our internal stress, or we would be multiplying the negatives in our context.
What would the practice of ‘Maitri’ do to your relationships? Whether at work or anywhere else, this would ensure two things. Firstly, you acknowledge and affirm people who you are interacting with. Secondly, you offer yourself to others in a way that enhances your self worth, and establishes your choice to impact your world in a positive direction. Contrary to the usual idea of teamwork, where strong and capable people come together, trust and trust-worthiness is the glue that binds a team together.
What is the difficulty in practicing this? ‘Sahrudayatvam’- the ability to be in resonance with the others’ heart, is the essence of ‘Maitri’ i.e., being empathetic and kind. That implies being vulnerable and open. Unfortunately, the strength of this way of being is not often appreciated. A belief in the ‘masculine’ idea of strength would generate only the ‘hoarding behavior’ or the ‘reactive behavior’. This belief would also see kindness as weakness.
Maitri: Songs of friendship and affection that arise from the Mooladhaara chakra
(the picture is of my Guru Yogachaarya Krishnamaachaarya; from the collection of Lakshmi Ranganathan)Please refer to my earlier blog for continuity, in case you have not seen it
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My work revolves around helping individuals, groups and organizations discover their Dhamma, and become “the best they can be”. This aligns with my own personal saadhana. I have restated this question for my self as follows: “how can I be in touch with the well spring of my love for the world and my love for my self simultaneously”